Well-known storyteller and author Heather Forest has added another Jewish folktale to her repertoire. Her previous Jewish book, A Big Quiet House, was a popular retelling of the “crowded house” folk tale, and in this new story, she takes on the tale about the evils of gossip that is originally attributed to Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev. It is a cautionary tale. A rabbi tries to teach a lesson to a gossipy woman by ordering her to take a pillow to the town square, cut it open, and then gather all the feathers together — which she cannot do. Forest retells this story in a very simple rhyming style, with few words to the page. Background details are unimportant; for instance, we don’t know where the story takes place, who the people are, or what the nature of the false rumor is. We just know that a woman started an unidentified rumor and the rabbi has decided to teach her a lesson. This appealing book will work well with very young children because of the simplicity of the text and the large and vibrant illustrations. However, the cover illustration of a large white cat playing with colored feathers is puzzling, even though a cat appears on a few of the inside illustrations. For a more “Jewish” and longer version, see Yettele’s Feathers by Joan Rothenberg (Hyperion, 1995). For ages 5 – 8.
Lisa Silverman is director of Sinai Temple’s Blumenthal Library in Los Angeles and a former day school librarian. She is the former children’s book review editor of Jewish Book World.